Social partners share good practices on vocational education and training from the COVID-19 crisis


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On 8 December 2020, representatives of European Social Partners in Education gathered online for a peer learning meeting in the framework of the project ‘Lifelong Learning for All: Social Partners in Education promoting quality and inclusive VET to enhance lifelong learning for all’, which is carried out by ETUCE in partnership with MBO-Raad (the Association of VET colleges in the Netherlands), and EFEE (the European Federation of Education Employers). Moving from the commitment in the ETUCE and EFEE joint Statement to promote high-quality vocational education and training (VET) and apprenticeships for students and provide VET teachers and trainers with adequate training, this joint project aims at promoting an inclusive lifelong-learning-based and innovation-driven approach to VET, by reaching vulnerable and marginalised people that need further and tailor-made support.

This meeting was the occasion for trade unions to share good practices and exchange views in discussion with guest speakers from national and European public bodies on the status of VET long and lifelong learning. Irish and Belgian education trade unions shared their good practices on the challenges and quality apprenticeships within a lifelong learning framework.

At the opening, a representative from the European Commission gave an overview of the individual learning accounts, the initiatives put forward in the new package of the European Skills Agenda with the objective to make employee training more accessible. Other speakers’ contributions were focused on the decisions to invest in the VET system, as it is facing an increasingly dynamic and unpredictable labour market.

Drawing lessons from the COVID-19 crisis on the VET system, social partners from the Netherlands presented a sectoral study on VET schools and higher education institutions during the lockdown. Results show that if the COVID-19 pandemic provides possibilities of innovation and flexibility, the crisis has negatively impacted on the respect of timetables and sorely hindered the wellbeing of VET teachers. The importance to support teachers and students to help them deal with the challenges deriving from the digital revolution and recent COVID-19 pandemic was strongly underlined. A supportive policy in VET should enable education institutions to organise sustainable development-based programmes to allow smooth transition flows between education and the labour market.

Aidan Kenny, representative of TUI (Teachers Union of Ireland), presented the Irish VET system, and the reforms of the sector. He gave an overview of several new initiatives, among them the so-called “Generations Apprenticeship”, the new VET system, which is more flexible, young-people-oriented, and provides apprentices with a formal contract of apprenticeship, paid by the employers.

Filip Vanden Berghe, representing Belgian trade union ACV-CSC presented the situation of lifelong learning in Flanders. He underlined that the dual apprenticeship is not that successful as it faces numerous challenges due to cuts in public funding, lack of adequate equipment, and lack of teaching and training personnel. Furthermore, a recent governmental decision to cut back part-time vocational education will cause many dropouts and will undermine the quality of the entire VET system. Education trade unions also stressed that flexibility in VET is a big risk for teachers, as they are facing increased workload and a less sustainable work-life balance.

Learn about the project ‘LLL for all’  here.

Partners of the project:

MBO Raad

European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE)

European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE)

Advisory group:

Association of Finnish Independent Education Employers (AFIEE) (Finland)

Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ) (Finland)

National Association of Professional Schools (ANESPO) (Portugal)

National Federation of Education (FNE) (Portugal)

Bildungsverband (BBB) (Germany)

Association of Secondary and Vocational School Headmasters (DR) (Slovenia)

EDUFORM Education and Training Employers Federation (Romania)

Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) (Ireland)